Why people wear poppies in November

Cloth poppy

Interwar period British 'Remembrance Day' poppy which belonged to Colonel Wilson of the Salvation Army.

© Imperial War Museum

    • You might have noticed that in November each year many people wear bright red paper poppies. What are the poppies for? And why November? Read on to find out…

      A poppy being held against a blue background.© The Royal British Legion.
      Why are these poppies so special?

      The First World War finally ended after four long and bloody years of fighting, on November 11 1918. The guns stopped on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

      Millions of people were killed in the war and millions more were injured. In the years since 1918, even more people have died in wars around the world including, of course, World War Two.

      November 11 was chosen back in 1919 as the special day each year when we would all think about and remember those who had died. To this day, 100 years later, at 11am on November 11 many people across Britain stay silent for two minutes to think about those who died.

      Two people observing the two minute silence© The Royal British Legion.
      This picture shows the two minute silence taking place high up on the London Eye.

      At first, November 11 was known as Armistice Day because 'armistice' is the word used for an agreement between enemies to stop fighting. These days it is more usually called Remembrance Day or Poppy Day.

      a photo of poppies growing in the wild, surounded by greenery.© The Royal British Legion.
      These poppies are growing wild at Gallipoli, scene of an awful battle in 1915.

      A doctor called John McCrae, who was working to help soldiers in France, wrote a poem in 1915 about the poppies growing on the graves of dead soldiers. The beginning of the poem goes -

      'In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row...'

      You can read the whole poem on this page.

      An American poet called Moina Michael read the beautiful poem. It gave her the idea of using poppies to remember the dead but also to help the living at the same time.

      A black and white photo showing children exercising in a schoolyard, all of them are weaing poppies.© Kirklees Community History Service.
      Poppies make a very good symbol for remembrance for several reasons. They were the only flower that grew easily on the battlefields after World War One. They're very delicate flowers too, that only live for a short time, which is rather like the young men killed in battle.

      The colour is important too - what does the bright red remind you of? Can you see why some people might think that fields of poppies look like fields of blood?

      The Royal British Legion use money raised on Poppy Day and at other events through the year to help thousands of ex-soldiers and their families. They also organise festivals, parades and church services of Remembrance.

      So - now you know! Those bright red paper flowers are full of history and meaning. They're very special to many, many people.

      If you'd like to find out more about either of the World Wars there are many museums around the country full of lots of objects, art and information. The Imperial War Museum is a great place to start.
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